News Corp is not a fit or proper owner of a British broadcaster, says our panel

VOICE OF THE CITY

NEWS Corp is not a “fit and proper” owner of a UK television broadcaster following the phone hacking scandal, according to the City A.M./PoliticsHome Voice of the City panel.

Under the Broadcasting Act 1990, media watchdog Ofcom must ensure that owners or shareholders of broadcasting companies are “fit and proper” to hold a licence.

There have been suggestions that the watchdog could force News Corp to sell down its 39 per cent stake in BSkyB should a police investigation prove its UK newspaper subsidiary News International has knowingly engaged in criminal activity such as phone hacking.

Fifty-six per cent of Voice of the City panellists, who have been recruited to represent a cross-section of London’s business and financial community, said News Corp was not a “fit and proper” owner, against 36 per cent who said it was.

Over half of panellists (56 per cent) thought it would take News Corp at least two years to recover from the phone hacking scandal. Thirty-five per cent thought it would recover within two to five years; five per cent thought it would take five to ten years; and two per cent thought it would take over a decade. A further 14 per cent said the News Corp brand was permanently damaged and would never recover.

One panellist said: “It defies belief that an organisation whose raison d'être is news should have so badly handled their own media and reputation”.

Despite this, the majority of panellists said News Corp would own and continue to operate all of its UK newspapers for at least a year. Seventy per cent thought it would continue to own and operate the Times and Sunday Times, while 75 per cent thought it would keep the Sun open.

The vast majority of panellists (63 per cent) thought News Corp’s UK subsidiary News International would launch a Sun on Sunday to replace the now-closed News of the World, and that it would still be operating in a year’s time.

However, the panel felt the phone hacking scandal had received too much news coverage, especially in light of other world events such as the Eurozone crisis.

Sixty-five per cent thought the media had paid too much attention to the story, against just four per cent who thought it had received too little attention. Just under a third (31 per cent) thought the story had received the right amount of attention.